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Jennifer Jason Leigh,
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Young Judith Dunbar is a quiet, gentle voiced teenager in the 1930s, relegated to a life at boarding school thanks to her colonial parents. Judith becomes adopted into the family of her best friend, young Loveday Carey Lewis, after the death of her aunt and guardian, Louise Forrester. Judith falls in love with the family, their home, Nancherrow, and Loveday's older brother Edward. When war strikes, Judith and the Carey-Lewis family all suffer, as Judith loses her family, and Loveday her fiancé; Gus. Judith muddles through the war losing Edward and aunt Lavinia in the process. But the war draws to a close, and Judith finds new romance, and Loveday suffers the consequences of a very hard decision, as she is forced to choose between Gus whom she loves, and her husband, Walter, the father of her young boy Nathaniel. Written by
Despite her small role Penelope Keith steals the show in this adaptation of a period drama that tells the story of the upheavals of war on the home front. She is the ultimate educated and feminist aunt whose character is only spoilt by an idiotic ignorance of David McCallum's advances on Keira Knightly.
Unfortunately, Keith's character dies early on in this 199 minute drama and the key concept of the changes of war barely touch the social realities of this story's very privileged characters.
Emily Mortimer is an excellent actor but is badly miscast as an elder version of Knightly whose talents could easily have allowed her to continue in the role to at least the age of 18. Lumley's heartache is barely given a glance in the story and there is virtually no opportunity for O'Toole to demonstrate his acting talents. The adult Loveday Carey-Lewis, played by Katie Ryder Richardson changes little from her childhood counterpart with the result that her character has mo more maturity than that of a ten year old!
Moreover, the aftermath of the sex scene between Paul Bettany and Mortimer does not create the desired effect of rendering Bettany's character as an uncaring rogue. Instead Mortimer's inflated romantic notions only fuel a dislike for a character that is utterly inept and badly in need of a lesson on life!
Bettany, while brilliant, commits an unconvincing suicide but at the very least we catch a glimpse of the brutality of war on a generation of young men.
I found myself wishing that the story had been told from the point of view of Mortimer's sister and the young artist, Gus, played by Heikko Deutschmann, but this is on account of my personal preference for a dark story lines.
Overall the drama is entertaining but if you are looking for a more profound experience, look elsewhere.
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